Outdoor Life Online Editor

We’ve all heard of people having sex changes, but now it appears that fish have joined the bandwagon. A growing percentage of male bass in the South Branch of the Potomac River are producing eggs, making it the latest center for studies and theories surrounding the national problem of water pollution and its affect on wildlife.

The mystery of the West Virginia bass has nothing to do with gender identity issues introduced in the fish world, but scientists suspect humans have an awful lot to do with it anyway. Waters are routinely tested for various forms of water pollutions such as nitrogen and phosphorous, runoffs from manure, but testing for other forms of pollutants such as hormones excreted by animals or humans is only done when a problem crops up. These other, potentially harmful pollutants are grouped together in a category labeled “emerging contaminants” and only tested for in cases where there is an inexplicable event amongst marine life.

Scientists continue to conduct testing of the male bass, in an effort to isolate the problem. Fish tend to absorb chemicals quite easily and are often indicators of environmental changes or problems.

Although it is not clear if the male bass can still reproduce, there appears to be no harmful effect on humans in the area.